Business Insider: Devin Nunes appears to be running a 'parallel' Russia probe without Democrats' consent
This article was published on October 10, 2017. A link to the article can be found here.
By Natasha Bertrand
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the opposition research firm Fusion GPS earlier this month for more information about the dossier the firm produced alleging ties between President Donald Trump's campaign team and Russia, according to CNN.
Rep. Devin Nunes stepped aside from the committee's Russia investigation in early April following his decision to brief Trump and the press on classified intelligence — without telling his fellow committee members. But he quickly began conducting his own investigation into "unmaskings" by the Obama administration and the credibility of the dossier.
An attorney for Fusion GPS, Joshua A. Levy, said in a statement on Tuesday that "if Rep. Nunes were serious about HPSCI’s stated mission, he would start by reviewing the 10 hours of voluntary testimony that Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this summer."
Neither Nunes' spokesman nor the Senate Judiciary Committee immediately returned requests for comment.
Levy said while Nunes stepped aside from the probe earlier this year, he "now appears to be running a parallel investigation outside of the official HPSCI investigation run by Reps. Conaway and Schiff."
Republican Rep. Mike Conaway, who is heading the committee's investigation, reportedly approved Nunes' subpoenas to Fusion GPS, but House Intelligence Democrats have indicated that they were not consulted. A spokesman for Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee's ranking member, did not return a request for comment.
Levy further alleged that "Nunes in bad faith, unilaterally broke our discussions with committee staff and abruptly demanded that my clients submit to a fresh inquiry."
That claim was bolstered by a Democratic committee source, who told CNN that the subpoenas were issued "without the minority's agreement and despite good faith engagement thus far by the witnesses on the potential terms for voluntary cooperation."
Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said it looked like Nunes was trying to "undermine" the investigation.
'The Democrats feel that Nunes has gone rogue'
This is not the first time Democrats have accused Nunes of going '"rogue."
Nunes subpoenaed the CIA, FBI, and NSA for more details in June about why Obama administration officials requested the unmasking of Trump associates last year. He and other Republicans have expressed concern that those requests might have been politically motivated.
A Democratic committee source told Business Insider earlier this summer that Nunes was trying to make questions about unmasking "the focal issue" of the committee's probe into Russia's election interference in order "to divert attention away from the investigation" into Trump's campaign.
"That's the obvious motive," the source said, adding that Nunes told the Democrats "super last minute" about his unmasking subpoenas.
"The Democrats feel that Nunes has gone rogue, or that he's trying to undermine the committee because he no longer serves in the top position on this investigation," the source said.
[House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff speaks to reporters about the appointment of a Special Counsel in the Russia investigations on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Zach Gibson] Rep. Schiff speaks to reporters about the appointment of a Special Counsel in the Russia investigations on Capitol Hill in WashingtonThomson Reuters
Schiff has called Nunes' decision to issue the unmasking subpoenas a "violation" of his recusal.
Three months later, Nunes threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Chris Wray in contempt of Congress if they did not respond to a subpoena for documents or testimony relating to the dossier.
In a letter dated September 1 and obtained by CNN, Nunes vented about the pair's "insufficient responsiveness to the committee's numerous Russia-investigation related requests over the past several months."
Schiff told MSNBC at the time that he was "perplexed" by the request.
"We don't subpoena parties unless they turn down our requests for information, which the DOJ and the FBI really hadn't done," Schiff said. "So we opposed it. We thought it wasn't warranted. They told us they were going to do it anyway."
Russia investigators have apparently been using the dossier as a kind of roadmap for their probes: Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly already interviewed the dossier's author, Christopher Steele, and Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr said last week that the committee had been working backwards to look into the document's explosive allegations.
'Here I think there's a hope ... they can impeach the whole Russia investigation'
[U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque] Trump meets Kissinger at the White House in WashingtonThomson Reuters
Schiff said Democrats have been wanting to subpoena the White House for documents related to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, but the Republicans on the committee "have not been willing." He also claimed that Republicans were trying to "antagonize the FBI and the DOJ, and trying to provoke a conflict" with Mueller.
Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, echoed Schiff's claim in September that the majority, led by Nunes, had operated outside of "standard practice" when it issued the subpoenas.
"Unfortunately, this decision by the majority stands in stark contrast to how they've treated other evidence in this investigation by first requesting voluntary compliance instead of jumping straight to subpoenas," Quigley said in a statement provided to Business Insider.
"The sole purpose of this subpoena is to discredit Christopher Steele instead of doing our due diligence to evaluate whether the claims in his report are true," he said.
Conaway — who is now leading the Russia investigation even as Nunes remains the chair of the committee — told reporters in September that he supported obtaining all of the relevant documents related to the dossier.
"We've got to run this thing to ground," he said.
But Schiff suggested he thinks something more sinister is happening.
"I think what's going on here is something I saw back in my days of a prosecutor," Schiff told MSNBC at the time.
"Sometimes the defense opts for a strategy of trying to put the government on trial. And here I think there's a hope that if they can impeach Christopher Steele, and if they can impeach the FBI and DOJ, then maybe they can impeach the whole Russia investigation."